Murph’s world – Nostalgia Blog
“I was only 19…”
After school, a career driven young Murph was on a warpath the succeed. I moved to the big smoke of Newcastle for a year to study Youth Work. Whilst I was there I volunteered at youth centres and delivered pizzas to build my workplace confidence and get a few pennies in the pocket. Admittedly the pennies were almost entirely committed to drinking goon. It was a time that has affectionately become known as the ‘Hutchin’s Days’.
There was a lot of watching bands in these days but no playing in them. I had lost a little bit of the ambition to play and was more motivated by my new career in community services. However, I can vividly remember the first time I walked into RTN studios on Maitland Road in Islington to the sound of a band my good friend, Ben McCauley was in. RTN was a cool spot. Bands rehearsing and the smell of stale beer and bong water in the console. It was rather elevating.
Myself, along with a bunch of other Gunnedah folk and some select others lived in a massive student house. Hutchin’s House. It was roughly 13 or so rooms with a communal kitchen, lounge and a small backyard in the suburb of Hamilton. In theory the place was perfect. I lived with 3 of my high school friends and a big group of mates had lived there the year before so we had a solid basis for house parties and mischief. There was a point where Monday was essentially the only “day off” of social drinking. Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’ were standard, Sunday’s was the Brewery and Tuesday’s was wine appreciation night. Wednesday nights were the kicker though – That was student night. The Cambridge at the start of 2006 had student night drinks at $2.00/beer or spirit. Throughout the year the price rose steadily but still at the end of the calendar, drinks were still only $2.80. In this day and age a drink that price seems like an unrealistic dream from a far away land but it was real. Very real.
Believe it or not, Wednesday nights weren’t the most significant abuse of one’s self that came out of this 12 months of my life. The most celebrated and astonishing thing that we came up with, was without a doubt; Steak Day. Steak Day became synonymous with heavy drinking, destruction and debauchery. It was pretty simple. Find yourself a nice cheap cut of meat for the BBQ and then start drinking around 10am.
Steak Day ’06 – Initially we wanted this giant sheet of steel to cook a pizza. Instead, we cooked steaks.
Some of the first Steak Day’s will be etched into my brain for eternity. There was maybe 15-20 of us crammed into the back yard of Hutchin’s being absolute menaces. Setting off fire alarms, smashing bottles and doing table slides. It’s hard to say if this next part was one day or a combination of a few, but hang in there…
We started early and were getting well lubricated. We had coped wind that there was a brand new batch of international students coming by to have a look at the house and move in. I’m guessing they arrived around mid afternoon. There was approx. 12 American students ready to get started on their “beachy, city” life in Australia. I vividly remember them arriving and looking at the circus that was unfolding in the backyard. There was makeshift BBQ, all the outdoor furniture was on the roof, inhabited by inebriated residents slapping each other on the bare back with a beer bong hose, someone had taken a shit out of a tree and the whole place stank, not to mention glorious metal music playing as loud as our computer speakers could get it. The look on their faces was shear horror. The chance of the new guests staying for the long haul wasn’t helped in one bit by one gentleman, Mr Richard Hores from Washington, USA, who had lived in Hutchin’s the year before and was giving them “The Grand Tour”. Richard proceeded to tell the new students that this was a pretty well standard thing (no lies there) and that Newcastle is a great place to live but one must be mindful of John Logan.
Richard and “John Logan”
As far as I knew, the only John Logan in Newcastle was our beer bong but Richard let them know that John was in fact a serial killer that snuck into people’s houses and murdered them in their sleep. Needless to say, of the 12 that came, 2 stayed and a good group of about 7 of them all slept in the one room, purely out of fear. We later found out that one of them was on the phone to their folks, in tears.
Welcome to the land of Oz.
Hazy Days – The lounge room of Hutchin’s House.
“Black Velvet and that little boy smile”.
Punk rock got me good as a teen. Real good. Thanks in no small part to Tony Hawk on playstation. Bands like the Dead Kennedy’s, Goldfinger, The Ernies, Suicidal Tendencies and Rage at the Machine had me wrapped. Plus pushing for that Indy Nosebone or a Handplant to boost the cash, left me with bleeding eyes and RSI in the thumbs. The soundtrack was an amazing influence on so many people. It got me wanting to play my guitar faster and with more determination and attitude. Other bands such as Blink 182, Nirvana and The Used also played a huge part in this.
“Winners” – The 21st Digit – Brad Burgoyne, Ben Murphy, Travis Lions, Herbert Berryman
Not long after The 21st Digit won the Gunnedah Tomato Festival talent quest, the push and pull of the end of school and musical influence seen us disband. I moved forward with new band; ‘Box of Love’. Marc Wharton on Bass and Tom Smith on drums. We played a few gigs but it wasn’t long before we needed a change. I have to admit, it was poor form but we booted Tom, at practice then started to jam new drummer, Shaun Bartlett. At the same practice. On Tom’s kit. At Tom’s house. Definitely not a fond memory.
Marc and Shaun’s collective musical influence meant dipping a toe into the alternate rock wave that blasted through the late nineties, early naughties. Bands like Shihad, The Butterfly Effect along with prog-rock gods, TOOL and metal legends, Deftones and Mudvayne my mind was opened up to so much more.
This new music was something I couldn’t deny and had to be a part of. As a result, we started jamming and got some photos taken. During the photo shoot, we decided on the name ‘Black Velvet’. The name was nothing to do with the song. Our photographer on the day, Lauren Smith (Marc’s future sister in law) had a stick of lip-stick called red velvet. We used the lippy to scrawl the words Black Velvet on the wall on the old abattoir and snapped some photos.
‘Black Velvet’ – Marc Wharton, Ben Murphy, Shaun Bartlett.
Black Velvet played about for roughly 3 years in Gunnedah and Tamworth with a few other performances around the traps. Our most memorable would have to be a band comp at the Family Hotel in Tamworth. We smashed heaps of cans of V energy drink before the show to “get us energetic”. We got bumped down the list a couple of times and by the time we hit the stage all the energy turned to nerves and we flopped. We got a bottle of Jim Beam and headed back to Gunnedah for the deb ball after party. I got dared to scull and I did. Threw up foam, passed out in the garden and got dumped by my girlfriend. What a time.
‘Black Velvet’ – 2004 – Shaun Bartlett, Ben Murphy, Marc Wharton
The early days…
“If you have 10 fingers and 10 toes, then your dick must be the 21st Digit.” – Nicholas Wright.
Not long after starting guitar lessons with the outstanding human, Steve McCauley (responsible for most of the musically inspired young people in and from Gunnedah) did I have yet another glimpse of the limitless, expressive possibilities music could bring to my life.
I was at the school eisteddfod watching a band. A few days later I spoke with the guitarist, in the bus line at school and mentioned to him that I really enjoyed their performance and that I had been learning guitar and writing songs. Herbert, without hesitation, said. “You should be our front man. Yeah, that’d be good”. I was ecstatic at the idea whilst trying my best to keep my cool. We got to jamming not long after with Herb on guitar, Rex on bass and David on drums. We performed our first gig at a band comp at the local PCYC under the name…wait for it.
“Organised Confusion”. Yes, yes. Very edgy. Uh, Very teen.
‘Organised Confusion’ – The band comp comments
I caught a glimpse of the performance, that had been recorded about 6-12 months later and I was in shock. It was rough. Nevertheless, as the band progressed, influences changed and collaboration began, the line up changed. We eventually settled with a new line up and a new name. With Herb on guitar, Travis (drums) Brad (bass) and myself at the helm, we started to practice under the name, The 21st Digit.
With some help from local Youth Workers, Bernie Shakeshaft and Adrian Black, my friends and I started what became ‘YOGO’ – The Youth of Gunnedah Organisation. This group allowed us to plan, organise and execute bi-monthly youth events in Gunnedah and gave us a chance, being underage, to perform in a professional environment at a proper venue, on a proper stage.
YOGO’s first event in 2004 – “Punkfest” with performances from Spin, Everlong, Razoo & The 21st Digit,
‘Punkfest’ – A YOGO event.
The YOGO gigs were the catalyst for performance and gave us the freedom to do what we wanted, how we wanted, at a time in our lives when we thought nobody understood.
Years in the making…
It’s taken me, like most people a long time to understand what it is i want most our of my career and my life. From a young age I was drawn to creative expression and bringing people together. I love to network and I love to create. I was inspired by my mother’s CD collection and my grandmother’s poetry. Both of them were strong, independent women that encouraged people to help each other.
I was 12 years old when music really took a hold on me and I started writing. At this time, I was growing up on a small farm some 15 minutes from town. That town was Gunnedah. I went in for the weekend with my friend Andrew and his parents and we ended up at the local park watching some friends in a band. It was the Coca-Cola Heatwave band comp in 2001. I was watching a lot of people I knew, younger and older performing on the outdoor stage. In particular 4 friends, Luke, Ben, Nick and Alex had a band called ‘Lithium’. It was everything you’d expect from four 13 year olds but I was blown away. I was in awe listening to them cover the likes of Silverchair and Grinspoon and I went straight home and wrote my first song. I continued to write for another couple of years when mum offered me a guitar to learn. I wanted to play the piano but we didn’t have one of them in the cupboard so six strings it was.
And so I was born. Music became a fighter, a lover and a healer. I was hooked.